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A ri^t/v Antkofopa, ofi writing 
at ou. t rs&c/ve,de,MCg 

&dite,d ' ia, 
Rautnond SocLcac-d, (Jr. 

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A Fifitft, Antkoio^ oft writing 

edited U f?autt(0«d oOaoOf-a^ UP-. 

Number Twenty-nine 

Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics 

Burning Man Books is 

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You know how I almost lost my mind? 

I can't explain 

Where I've been 

You know how I almost lost my mind? 

I can't explain 

Where I've been 

You know how I almost lost my mind? 

I couldn't explain 

What I've seen 

The Chemical Brothers, 
"The Test," 2002 

7#£ l/ariestie^ ok Remioa.s Pjope^ienc^ 

by William James 


'ne conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and 
my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It 
is that our normal waking consciousness, rational conscious- 
ness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst 
all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie 
potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go 
through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the 
requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their com- 
pleteness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere 
have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the 
universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms 
of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the 
question— for they are so discontinuous with ordinary conscious- 
ness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they cannot fur- 
nish formulas, and open a region though they fail to give a map. 
At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts 
with reality. Looking back on my own experiences, they all con- 
verge towards a kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing 
some metaphysical significance. The keynote of it is invariably a 
reconciliation. It is as if the opposites of the world, whose con- 
tradictoriness and conflict make all our difficulties and troubles, 
were melted into unity. Not only do they, as contrasted species, 
belong to one and the same genus, but one of the species, the 
nobler and better one, is itself the genus, and so soaks up and 
absorbs its opposite into itself. This is a dark saying, I know, 
when thus expressed in terms of common logic, but I cannot 
wholly escape from its authority. I feel as if it must mean some- 
thing, something like what the hegelian philosophy means, if 
one could only lay hold of it more clearly. Those who have ears 
to hear, let them hear; to me the living sense of its reality only 
comes in the artificial mystic state of mind. 

Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

Do Df°(f#T(QM< Re£/^iou£ itnbort? 

by Dr. Huston Smith 

The Journal of Philosophy, 
Vol LXI, No. 18, September 17, 1964 


! ntil six months ago, if I picked up my phone in the Cam- 
bridge area and dialed KISS-BIG a voice would answer, "If if." These 
were coincidences: KISS-BIG simply happened to be the letter 
equivalents of an arbitrarily assigned telephone number, while 
I.F.I.F. represented the initials of an organization with the im- 
probable name of the International Federation for Internal Free- 
dom. But the coincidences were apposite to the point of being 
poetic. "Kiss big" caught the euphoric, manic, life-embracing at- 
titude that characterized this most publicized of the organiza- 
tions formed to explore the newly synthesized consciousness- 
changing substances, while the organization itself was surely 
one of the "iffy-est" phenomena to appear on our social and 
intellectual scene in some time. It produced the first firings in 
Harvard's history, an ultimatum to get out of Mexico in five days, 
and "the miracle of Marsh Chapel" in which during a two-and- 
one-half hour Good Friday service ten theological students and 
professors ingested psilocybin and were visited by what they 
generally reported to be the deepest religious experiences of their 

Despite the last of these phenomena and its numerous if 
less dramatic parallels, students of religion appear by and large 
to be dismissing the psychedelic drugs which have sprung to 
our attention in the sixties as having little religious relevance. 
The position taken in one of the most forward-looking volumes 
of theological essays to have appeared in recent years 1 accepts 
R. C. Zaehner's Mysticism Sacred and Profane as having "fully 
examined and refuted" the religious claims for mescaline which 
Aldous Huxley sketched in The Doors of Perception. This closing 
of the case strikes me as premature, for it looks as if the drugs 
have light to throw on the history of religion, the phenomenol- 

A Pifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics • 7 

ogy of religion, the philosophy of religion, and the practice of 
the religious life itself. 

1. Drugs and Religion Viewed Historically 

In his trial-and-error life explorations man almost everywhere 
has stumbled upon connections between vegetables (eaten or 
brewed) and actions (yogic breathing exercises, whirling dervish 
dances, flagellations) which altered states of consciousness. From 
the psychopharmacological standpoint we now understand these 
states to be the products of changes in brain chemistry. From 
the sociological perspective we see that they tended to be con- 
nected in some way with religion. If we discount the wine used 
in our own communion services, the instances closest to us in 
time and space are the peyote of The Native American (Indian) 
Church and Mexico's 2,000-year-old "sacred mushrooms," the 
latter rendered in Aztec as "God's flesh" striking parallel to "the 
body of our Lord" in the Christian Eucharist. Beyond these neigh- 
boring instances lie the soma of the Hindus, the haoma and hemp, 
identical with and better known as marijuana, of the Zoroastri- 
ans, the Dionysus of the Greeks who "everywhere . . . taught men 
the culture of the vine and the mysteries of his worship and 
everywhere [was] accepted as a god," 2 the benzoin of Southeast 
Asia, Zen's tea whose fifth cup purifies and whose sixth "calls to 
the realm of the immortals," 3 the pituri of the Australian aborigi- 
nes and probably the mystic kykeon that was eaten and drunk at 
the climactic close of the sixth day of the Eleusinian mysteries. 4 
There is no need to extend the list, especially as Philippie de 
Felice's comprehensive study of the subject, Poisons Sacres, 
Ivresses Divines (Sacred Poisons, Divine Raptures), is about to 
appear in English. 

More interesting than the fact that consciousness-changing 
devices have been linked with religion is the possibility that they 
actually initiated many of the religious perspectives which, tak- 
ing root in history, continued after their psychedelic origins were 
forgotten. Bergson saw the first movement of Hindus and Greeks 
toward "dynamic religion" as associated with the "divine rap- 
ture" found in intoxicating beverages 5 ; more recently Robert 
Graves, Gordon Wasson and Alan Watts have suggested that most 
religions arose from such chemically-induced theophanies. Mary 
Barnard is the most explicit proponent of this thesis. "Which. . . 

Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

was more likely to happen first," she asks in the autumn 1963 
journal of Phi Beta Kappa: "the spontaneously generated idea of 
an afterlife in which the disembodied soul, liberated from the 
restrictions of time and space, experiences eternal bliss, or the 
accidental discovery of hallucinogenic plants that give a sense 
of euphoria, dislocate the center of consciousness, and distort 
time and space, making them balloon outward in greatly ex- 
panded vistas?" Her own answer is that "the [latter] experience 
might have had... an almost explosive effect on the largely dor- 
mant minds of men, causing them to think of things they had 
never thought of before. This, if you like, is direct revelation." 
Her use of the subjunctive "might" renders this formulation of 
her answer equivocal, but she concludes her essay on a note that 
is completely unequivocal: "Looking at the matter coldly, 
unintoxicated and unentranced, I am willing to prophesy that 
fifty theo-botanists working for fifty years would make the cur- 
rent theories concerning the origins of much mythology and 
theology as out-of-date as pre-Copernican astronomy." 6 

This is an important hypothesis, one which must surely en- 
gage the attention of historians of religion for some time to come. 
But as I am concerned here only to spot the points at which the 
drugs erupt onto the field of serious religious study, not to ride 
the geysers to whatever height, I shall not pursue Miss Barnard's 
thesis. Having located what appears to be the crux of the histori- 
cal question, namely the extent to which drugs not merely dupli- 
cate or simulate theologically sponsored experiences but gener- 
ate or shape theologies themselves, I turn to phenomenology. 

2. Drugs and Religion Viewed Phenomenologically 

Phenomenology attempts a careful description of human expe- 
rience. The question the drugs pose for the phenomenology of 
religion, therefore, is whether the experiences they induce differ 
from religious experiences reached au nature and if so how. 

Even the Bible notes that chemically induced psychic states 
bear some resemblance to religious ones. Peter had to appeal to 
a circumstantial criterion, the early hour of the day, to defend 
those who were caught up in the Pentecostal experience against 
the charge that they were merely drunk: "These men are not 
drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day" 
(Acts 2:15); and Paul initiates the comparison when he admon- 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 9 

ishes the Ephesians not to "get drunk with wine. . . but [to] be 
filled with the spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). Are such comparisons, 
paralleled in the accounts of virtually every religion, superficial? 
How far can they be pushed? 

Not all the way, students of religion have thus far insisted. 
With respect to the new drugs, Professor R. C. Zaehner has drawn 
the line emphatically. "The importance of Huxley's Doors of Per- 
ception ," he writes, "is that in it the author clearly makes the 
claim that what he experienced under the influence of mescalin 
is closely comparable to a genuine mystical experience. If he is 
right. . . the conclusions. . . are alarming." 7 Zaehner thinks that 
Huxley is not right, but Zaehner is mistaken 

There are, of course, innumerable drug experiences which 
haven't a religious feature; they can be sensual as readily as spiri- 
tual, trivial as readily as transforming, capricious as readily as 
sacramental. If there is one point about which every student of 
the drugs agrees, it is that there is no such thing as the drug 
experience per se— no experience which the drugs, as it were, 
merely secrete. Every experience is a mix of three ingredients: 
drug, set (the psychological makeup of the individual) and set- 
ting (the social and physical environment in which it is taken). 
But given the right set and setting, the drugs can induce reli- 
gious experiences indistinguishable from ones that occur spon- 
taneously. Nor need set and setting be exceptional. The way the 
statistics are currently running, it looks as if from one-fourth to 
one-third of the general population will have religious experi- 
ences if they take the drugs under naturalistic conditions, mean- 
ing by this conditions in which the researcher supports the sub- 
ject but doesn't try to influence the direction his experience will 
take. Among subjects who have strong religious inclinations to 
begin with, the proportion of those having religious experiences 
jumps to three-fourths. If they take them in settings which are 
religious too, the ratio soars to nine out of ten. 

How do we know that the experiences these people have re- 
ally are religious? We can begin with the fact that they say they 
are. The "one-fourth to one-third of the general populous" fig- 
ure is drawn from two sources. Ten months after they had had 
their experiences, 24 percent of the 194 subjects in a study by 
the California psychiatrist Oscar Janiger characterized them as 
having been religious. 8 Thirty-two percent of the 74 subjects in 
Ditman and Hayman's study reported that in looking back on 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

their LSD experience it looked as if it had been "very much" or 
"quite a bit" a religious experience; 42 percent checked as true 
the statement that they "were left with a greater awareness of 
God, or a higher power, or ultimate reality." 9 The statement that 
three-fourths of subjects having religious "sets" will have reli- 
gious experiences comes from the reports of sixty-nine religious 
professionals who took the drugs while the Harvard project was 
in progress. 10 

In the absence of (a) a single definition of a religious experi- 
ence acceptable to psychologists of religion generally, and (b) 
foolproof ways of ascertaining whether actual experiences ex- 
emplify any definition, I am not sure there is a better way of 
telling whether the experiences of the 333 men and women in- 
volved in the above studies were religious than by noting whether 
they seemed so to them. But if more rigorous methods are pre- 
ferred, they exist; they have been utilized and confirm the con- 
viction of the man in the street that drug experiences can indeed 
be religious. In his doctoral study at Harvard University, Dr. Walter 
Pahnke worked out a typology of religious experience (in this 
instance of the mystical variety) based on the classic cases of 
mystical experiences as summarized in Walter Stace's Mysticism 
and Philosophy. He then administered psilocybin to ten theology 
students and professors in the setting of a Good Friday service. 
The drug was given "double-blind," meaning that neither Dr. 
Pahnke nor his subjects would know which ten were getting psilo- 
cybin and which ten placebos to constitute a control group. Sub- 
sequently the reports the subjects wrote of their experiences 
were laid successively before three college-graduate housewives 
who, without being informed about the nature of the study, were 
asked to rate each statement as to the degree (strong, moderate, 
slight, or none) to which it exemplified each of the nine traits of 
mystical experience as enumerated in the typology of mysticism 
worked out in advance. When the test of significance was ap- 
plied to their statistics, it showed that "those subjects who re- 
ceived psilocybin experienced phenomena which were indistin- 
guishable from, if not identical with. . . the categories defined by 
our typology of mysticism." 11 

With the thought that the reader might like to test his own 
powers of discernment on the question being considered, I in- 
sert here a simple test I gave to a group of Princeton students 
following a recent discussion sponsored by the Woodrow Wil- 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 1 1 

son Society. 

Below are accounts of two religious experiences. One occurred 
under the influence of drugs, one without their influence. Check 
the one you think was drug-induced. 


Suddenly I burst into a vast, new, indescribably wonderful uni- 
verse. Although I am writing this over a year later, the thrill of 
the surprise and amazement, the awesomeness of the revelation, 
the engulfment in an overwhelming feeling-wave of gratitude and 
blessed wonderment, are as fresh, and the memory of the experi- 
ence is as vivid, as if it had happened five minutes ago. And yet to 
concoct anything by way of description that would even hint at 
the magnitude, the sense of ultimate reality. . . this seems such an 
impossible task. The knowledge which has infused and affected 
every aspect of my life came instantaneously and with such com- 
plete force of certainty that it was impossible, then or since, to 
doubt its validity. 


All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped 
in a flame-colored cloud. For an instant I thought of fire. . . the 
next, I knew that the fire was within myself. Directly afterward 
there came upon me a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness 
accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumi- 
nation impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely 
come to believe, but I saw that the universe is not composed of 
dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living Presence; I became 
conscious in myself of eternal life. ... 7 saw that all men are 
immortal: that the cosmic order is such that without any 
peradventure all things work together for the good of each and 
all; that the foundation principle of the world. . . is what we call 
love, and that the happiness of each and all is in the long run 
absolutely certain. 

On the occasion referred to, twice the number of students 
(46) answered incorrectly as answered correctly (23). I bury the 
correct answer in a footnote to preserve the reader's opportu- 
nity to test himself. 12 

Why, in the face of this considerable evidence, does Zaehner 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

hold that drug experiences cannot be authentically religious? 
There appear to be three reasons: 

1. His own experience was "utterly trivial." This of course 
proves that not all drug experiences are religious; it does not 
prove that no drug experiences are religious. 

2. He thinks that the experiences of others which appear to 
be religious to them are not truly so. Zaehner distinguishes three 
kinds of mysticism: nature mysticism in which the soul is united 
with the natural world; monistic mysticism in which the soul 
merges with an impersonal absolute; and theism in which the 
soul confronts the living, personal God. He concedes that drugs 
can induce the first two species of mysticism, but not its su- 
preme instance, the theistic. As proof, he analyzes Huxley's ex- 
perience as recounted in The Doors of Perception to show that it 
produced at best a blend of nature and monistic mysticism. Even 
if we were to accept Zaehner' s evaluation of the three forms of 
mysticism, Huxley's case, and indeed Zaehner's entire book, 
would prove only that not every mystical experience induced by 
the drugs is theistic. Insofar as Zaehner goes beyond this to im- 
ply that drugs do not and cannot induce theistic mysticism, he 
not only goes beyond the evidence but proceeds in the face of it. 
Professor Slotkin reports that the peyote Indians "see visions, 
which may be of Christ Himself. Sometimes they hear the voice 
of the Great Spirit. Sometimes they become aware of the pres- 
ence of God and of those personal shortcomings which must be 
corrected if they are to do His will." 13 And G M. Carstairs, report- 
ing on the use of psychedelic bhang (marijuana) in India, quotes 
a Brahmin as saying, "It gives good bhakti. . . . You get a very 
good bhakti with bhang," bhakti being precisely Hinduism's the- 
istic variant. 14 

3. There is a third reason why Professor Zaehner might doubt 
that drugs can induce experiences that are genuinely mystical. 
Professor Zaehner is a Roman Catholic, and Roman Catholic 
doctrine teaches that mystical rapture is a gift of grace and as 
such can never be reduced to man's control. This may be true; 
certainly the empirical evidence cited does not preclude the pos- 
sibility of a genuine ontological or theological difference between 
natural and drug-induced religious experiences. At this point, 
however, we are considering phenomenology rather than ontol- 
ogy, description rather than interpretation, and on this level there 
is no difference. Descriptively, drug experiences cannot be dis- 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 1 3 

tinguished from their natural religious counterpart. When the 
current philosophical authority on mysticism, Dr. W. T. Stace, 
Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, was asked whether 
the drug experience is similar to the mystical experience, he an- 
swered, "It's not a matter of its being similar to mystical experi- 
ence; it is mystical experience." 

What we seem to be witnessing in Zaehner's Mysticism Sa- 
cred and Profane is a reenactment of the age-old pattern in the 
conflict between science and religion. Whenever a new contro- 
versy arises, religion's first impulse is to deny the disturbing 
evidence science has produced. Seen in perspective, Zaehner's 
refusal to admit that drugs can induce experiences descriptively 
indistinguishable from those which are spontaneously religious 
is the current counterpart of the seventeenth century theolo- 
gians' refusal to look through Galileo's telescope or, when they 
did, their persistence in dismissing what they saw as machina- 
tions of the devil. When the fact that drugs can trigger religious 
experiences becomes incontrovertible, discussion will move to 
the more difficult question of how this new fact is to be inter- 
preted. The latter question leads beyond phenomenology into 

3. Drugs and Religion Viewed Philosophically 

Why do people reject evidence? Because they find it threatening, 
we may suppose. Theologians are not the only professionals to 
utilize this mode of defense. In his Personal Knowledge , Michael 
Polanyi recounts the way the medical profession ignored such 
palpable facts as the painless amputation of human limbs, per- 
formed before their own eyes in hundreds of successive cases, 
concluding that the subjects were impostors who were either 
deluding their physician or colluding with him. One physician, 
Esdaile, carried out about 300 major operations painlessly un- 
der mesmeric trance in India, but neither in India nor in Great 
Britain could he get medical journals to print accounts of his 
work. Polanyi attributes this closed-mindedness to "lack of a 
conceptual framework in which their discoveries could be sepa- 
rated from specious and untenable admixtures." 

The "untenable admixture" in the fact that psychotomimetic 
drugs can induce religious experience is their apparent impli- 
cate: that religious disclosures are no more veridical than psy- 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

chotic ones. For religious skeptics, this conclusion is obviously 
not untenable at all; it fits in beautifully with their thesis that all 
religion is at heart an escape from reality. Psychotics avoid real- 
ity by retiring into dream worlds of make-believe; what better 
evidence that religious visionaries do the same than the fact that 
identical changes in brain chemistry produces both states of 
mind? Had not Marx already warned us that religion is the "opi- 
ate" of the people? Apparently he was more literally accurate 
than he supposed. Freud was likewise too mild. He "never doubted 
that religious phenomena are to be understood only on the model 
of the neurotic symptoms of the individual." 15 He should have 
said "psychotic symptoms." 

So the religious skeptic is likely to reason. What about the 
religious believer? Convinced that religious experiences are not 
fundamentally delusory, can he admit that psychotomimetic 
drugs can occasion them? To do so he needs (to return to Polanyi' s 
words) "a conceptual framework in which [the discoveries can] 
be separated from specious and untenable admixtures," the lat- 
ter being in this case the conclusion that religious experiences 
are in general delusory. 

One way to effect the separation would be to argue that de- 
spite phenomenological similarities between natural and drug- 
induced religious experiences, they are separated by a crucial 
ontological difference. Such an argument would follow the pat- 
tern of theologians who argue for the "real presence" of Christ's 
body and blood in the bread and wine of the Eucharist despite 
their admission that chemical analysis, confined as it is to the 
level of "accidents" rather than "essences," would not disclose 
this presence. But this distinction will not appeal to many today, 
for it turns on an essence-accident metaphysics which is not 
widely accepted. Instead of fighting a rear-guard action by in- 
sisting that if drug and non-drug religious experiences can't be 
distinguished empirically there must be some trans-empirical 
factor which distinguishes them and renders the drug experi- 
ence profane, I wish to explore the possibility of accepting drug- 
induced experiences as religious in every sense of the word with- 
out relinquishing confidence in the truth claims of religious ex- 
perience generally. 

To begin with the weakest of all arguments, the argument 
from authority: William James didn't discount his insights which 
occurred while his brain chemistry was altered. The paragraph 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 1 5 

in which he retrospectively evaluates his nitrous oxide experi- 
ences has become classic, but it is so pertinent to the present 
discussion that it merits quoting again. 

One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my 
impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is 
that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as 
we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about 
it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential 
forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life 
without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimu- 
lus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, defi- 
nite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field 
of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its 
totality can be final which leaves these other forms of conscious- 
ness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question— for 
they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they 
may determine attitudes though they cannot furnish formulas, 
and open a region though they fail to give a map. At any rate, 
they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality. Look- 
ing back on my own experiences, they all converge toward a kind 
of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical 
significance. 16 

To this argument from authority, I add two that try to pro- 
vide something by way of reasons. Drug experiences that as- 
sume a religious cast tend to have fearful and/or beatific fea- 
tures, and each of my hypotheses relates to one of these aspects 
of the experience. 

Beginning with the ominous, "fear of the Lord," awe-ful fea- 
tures, Gordon Wasson, the New York banker- turned-mycologist, 
describes these as he encountered them in his psilocybin experi- 
ence as follows: "Ecstasy! In common parlance. . . ecstasy is fun. 
. . . But ecstasy is not fun. Your very soul is seized and shaken 
until it tingles. After all, who will choose to feel undiluted awe 
. . . ? The unknowing vulgar abuse the word; we must recapture 
its full and terrifying sense." Emotionally the drug experience 
can be like having forty-foot waves crash over you for several 
hours while you cling desperately to a life raft which may be 
swept from under you at any minute. It seems quite possible 
that such an ordeal, like any experience of a close call, could 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

awaken rather fundamental sentiments respecting life and death 
and destiny and trigger the "no atheists in foxholes" effect. Simi- 
larly, as the subject emerges from the trauma and realizes that 
he is not going to be insane as he had feared, there may come 
over him an intensified appreciation like that frequently reported 
by patients recovering from critical illness. "It happened on the 
day when my bed was pushed out of doors to the open gallery of 
the hospital," reads one such report. 

I cannot now recall whether the revelation came suddenly or 
gradually; I only remember finding myself in the very midst of 
those wonderful moments, beholding life for the first time in all 
its young intoxication of loveliness, in its unspeakable joy, beauty, 
and importance. I cannot say exactly what the mysterious change 
was. I saw no new thing, but I saw all the usual things in a mi- 
raculous new light— in what I believe is their true light. I saw for 
the first time how wildly beautiful and joyous, beyond any words 
of mine to describe, is the whole of life. Every human being mov- 
ing across that porch, every sparrow that flew, every branch toss- 
ing in the wind, was caught in and was a part of the whole mad 
ecstasy of loveliness, of joy, of importance, of intoxication of life. 17 

If we do not discount religious intuitions because they are 
prompted by battlefields and physical crises; if we regard the 
latter as "calling us to our senses" more often than they seduce 
us into delusions, need comparable intuitions be discounted sim- 
ply because the crises that trigger them are of an inner, psychic 

Turning from the hellish to the heavenly aspects of the drug 
experience, some of the latter may be explainable by the hypoth- 
esis just stated; that is, they may be occasioned by the relief that 
attends the sense of escape from high danger. But this hypoth- 
esis cannot possibly account for all the beatific episodes for the 
simple reason that the positive episodes often come first, or to 
persons who experience no negative episodes whatever. Dr. 
Sanford Unger of the National Institute of Mental Health reports 
that among his subjects "50 to 60 percent will not manifest any 
real disturbance worthy of discussion," yet "around 75" will have 
at least one episode in which exaltation, rapture, and joy are the 
key descriptions. 18 How are we to account for the drug's capac- 
ity to induce peak experiences, such as the following, which are 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 1 7 

not preceded by fear? 

A feeling of great peace and contentment seemed to flow through 
my entire body. All sound ceased and I seemed to be floating in a 
great, very still void or hemisphere. It is impossible to describe the 
overpowering feeling of peace, contentment, and being a part of 
goodness itself that I felt. I could feel my body dissolving and ac- 
tually becoming a part of the goodness and peace that was all 
around me. Words can't describe this. I feel an awe and wonder 
that such a feeling could have occurred to me. 19 

Consider the following line of argument. Like every other 
form of life, man's nature has become distinctive through spe- 
cialization. Man has specialized in developing a cerebral cortex. 
The analytic powers of this instrument are a standing wonder, 
but it seems less able to provide man with the sense that he is 
meaningfully related to his environment, to life, the world and 
history in their wholeness. As Albert Camus describes the situa- 
tion, "If I were. . . a cat among animals, this life would have a 
meaning, or rather this problem would not arise, for I should 
belong to this world. I would be this world to which I am now 
opposed by my whole consciousness." 20 Note that it is Camus' 
consciousness that opposes him to his world. The drugs do not 
knock this consciousness out, but while they leave it operative 
they also activate areas of the brain that normally lie below its 
threshold of awareness. One of the clearest objective signs that 
the drugs are taking effect is the dilation they produce in the 
pupils of the eyes, while one of the most predictable subjective 
signs is the intensification of visual perception. Both of these 
responses are controlled by portions of the brain that lie deep, 
further to the rear than the mechanisms that govern conscious- 
ness. Meanwhile we know that the human organism is interlaced 
with its world in innumerable ways it normally cannot sense 
through gravitational fields, body respiration, and the like; the 
list could be multiplied until man's skin began to seem more 
like a thoroughfare than a boundary. Perhaps the deeper regions 
of the brain which evolved earlier and are more like those of the 
lower animals-"If I were. . . a cat. . . I should belong to this 
world" can sense this relatedness better than can the cerebral 
cortex which now dominates our awareness. If so, when the drugs 
rearrange the neurohumors that chemically transmit impulses 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

across synapses between neurons, man's consciousness and his 
submerged, intuitive, ecological awareness might for a spell be- 
come interlaced. This is, of course, no more than a hypothesis, 
but how else are we to account for the extraordinary incidence 
under the drugs of that kind of insight the keynote of which 
James described as 

invariably a reconciliation. It is as if the opposites of the world, 
whose contradictoriness and conflict make all our difficulties and 
troubles, were melted into one and the same genus, but one of 
the species, the nobler and better one, is itself the genus, and so 
soaks up and absorbs its opposites into itself 21 

4. The Drugs and Religion Viewed "Religiously" 

Suppose that drugs can induce experiences that are indistin- 
guishable from religious ones, and that we can respect their re- 
ports. Do they shed any light, not (we now ask) on life, but on the 
nature of the religious life? 

One thing they may do is throw religious experience itself 
into perspective by clarifying its relation to the religious life as a 
whole. Drugs appear able to induce religious experiences; it is 
less evident that they can produce religious lives. It follows that 
religion is more than religious experiences. This is hardly news, 
but it may be a useful reminder, especially to those who incline 
toward "the religion of religious experience," which is to say to- 
ward lives bent on the acquisition of desired states of experi- 
ence irrespective of their relation to life's other demands and 

Despite the dangers of faculty psychology, it remains useful 
to regard man as having a mind, a will, and feelings. One of the 
lessons of religious history is that to be adequate a faith must 
rouse and involve all three components of man's nature. Reli- 
gions of reason grow arid; religions of duty, leaden. Religions of 
experience have their comparable pitfalls, as evidenced by 
Taoism's struggle (not always successful) to keep from degener- 
ating into quietism, and the vehemence with which Zen Bud- 
dhism has insisted that once students have attained satori, they 
must be driven out of it, back into the world. The case of Zen is 
especially pertinent here, for it pivots on an enlightenment ex- 
perience— satori or kensho— which some (but not all) Zennists 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 19 

says resembles LSD. Alike or different, the point is that Zen rec- 
ognizes that unless the experience is joined to discipline, it will 
come to naught. 

Even the Buddha. . . had to sit Without joriki, the particu- 
lar power developed through zazen [seated meditation], the vi- 
sion of oneness attained in enlightenment. . . in time becomes 
clouded and eventually fades into a pleasant memory instead of 
remaining an omnipresent reality shaping our daily life. ... To 
be able to live in accordance with what the Mind's eye has re- 
vealed through satori requires, like the purification of character 
and the development of personality, a ripening period of zazen. 22 

If the religion of religious experience is a snare and a delu- 
sion, it follows that no religion that fixes its faith primarily in 
substances that induce religious experiences can be expected to 
come to a good end. What promised to be a shortcut will prove 
to be a short circuit; what began as a religion will end as a reli- 
gion surrogate. Whether chemical substances can be helpful 
adjuncts to faith is another question. The peyote-using Native 
American Church seems to indicate that they can be; anthro- 
pologists give this church a good report, noting among other 
things that members resist alcohol and alcoholism better than 
do non-members. 23 The conclusion to which evidence currently 
points would seem to be that chemicals can aid the religious life, 
but only where set within a context of faith (meaning by this the 
conviction that what they disclose is true) and discipline (mean- 
ing diligent exercise of the will in the attempt to work out the 
implications of the disclosures for the living of life in the every 
day, common sense world). 

Nowhere today in Western civilization are these two condi- 
tions jointly fulfilled. Churches lack faith in the sense just men- 
tioned, hipsters lack discipline. This might lead us to forget about 
the drugs, were it not for one fact: the distinctive religious emo- 
tion and the one drugs unquestionably can occasion— Otto's 
mysterium tremendum, majestas, mysterium fascinans; in a 
phrase, the phenomenon of religious awe seems to be declining 
sharply. As Paul Tillich said in an address to the Hillel Society at 
Harvard several years ago: 

The question our century puts before us [is]: Is it possible to re- 
gain the lost dimension, the encounter with the Holy, the dimen- 
sion which cuts through the world of subjectivity and objectivity 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

and goes down to that which is not world but is the mystery of 
the Ground of Being? 

Tillich may be right; this may be the religious question of 
our century. For if (as we have insisted) religion cannot be equated 
with religious experience, neither can it long survive its absence. 


1 Soundings: Essays Concerning Christian Understandings , edited by A. R. 
Vidler. Cambridge: The University Press, 1962, The statement cited appears on 
page 72. 

2 Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New York, Mentor Book, 1940, p. 55. 

I Quoted in Alan Watts, The Spirit of Zen. New York: Grove Press, 1958, p. 

4 Mylonas, George. Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries. Princeton, N.J.: 
Princeton University Press, 1961, p. 284. 

5 Two Sources of Morality and Religion. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1 93 5 , 
pp. 206-212. 

6 "The God in the Flowerpot." The American Scholar (Autumn 1963), pp. 
584, 586. 

7 Mysticism, Sacred and Profane. New York: Oxford Galaxy Book, 1961, p. 

8 Quoted in McGlothlin, William H. "Long-lasting Effects of LSD on Certain 
Attitudes in Normals." Printed for private distribution by the RAND Corpora- 
tion, p. 16. 

9 Ibid. , pp. 45,46. 

10 Leary, Timothy. "The Religious Experience: Its Production and Interpreta- 
tion." The Psychedelic Review, vol. I, no. 3 (1964), p. 325. 

II "Drugs and Mysticism: An Analysis of the Relationship Between Psyche- 
delic Drugs and the Mystical Consciousness." A thesis presented to the Com- 
mittee on Higher Degrees in History and Philosophy of Religion, Harvard Uni- 
versity, June 1963. 

12 The first account is quoted anonymously in "The Issue of the Conscious- 
ness-Expanding Drugs." Main Currents in Modern Thought vol. XX, no. I (Sep- 
tember-October 1963), pp. 10-11. The second experience was that of Dr. R. M. 
Bucke, the author of Cosmic Consciousness, as quoted in James, William. The 
Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: The Modern Library, 1902, pp. 
390391. The former experience occurred under the influence of drugs, the 
latter did not. 

13 Slotkin, James S. Peyote Religion. Glencoe, III.: Free Press, 1956. 

14 "Daru and Bhang." Quarterly Journal of the Study of Alcohol. 1954, 15:229. 

15 Totem and Taboo. New York: Modern Library, 1938. 

16 The Varieties of Religious Experience, op. tit, pp. 378-379. 

A Pifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 2 1 

17 Montague, Margaret Prescott. Twenty Minutes of Reality. Saint Paul, Minn.: 
Macalester Park Publishing Company, 1947, pp. 15, 17. 

18 "The Current Scientific Status of Psychedelic Drug Research." A paper 
read at the Conference on Methods in Philosophy and the Sciences, New School 
for Social Research, May 3, 1964. 

19 Quoted by Dr. Unger in the paper just mentioned. 

20 The Myth of Sisyphus. New York: Vintage, 1955, p. 38. 

21 James, William, op. cit. , p. 379. 

22 Kapleau, Philip. Zen Practice and Attainment. A manuscript in process of 

2:i Slotkin, James S., op. cit. 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

by Jay Stevens 

[An excerpt from 
Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream, 1987] 

" J. he whole goddamn climate changed. Suddenly you were con- 
spirators out to destroy people. I felt like Galileo. I closed my 
practice and went to Europe. I felt violated." 

That was the way Oscar Janiger remembered the change in 
mood that began in the summer of 1962. Suddenly LSD was no 
longer innocuous. It was a dagger pointed at the heart of psy- 
chiatry, the next thalidomide, a time bomb that was cheerfully 
being constructed by deluded members of the profession. 

"If you want to know, it was Leary and the others who were 
ruining what we had worked so hard to build." 

That was Janiger retrospectively laying blame. At the time 
no one knew where to point the finger. With the exception of 
some of the Lab Madness boys, who had been a tad bitter when 
their work was dismissed as passe, things had been proceeding 
with benign optimism, new recruits swelling the research ranks 
every week. 

In a major city like Los Angeles, it was as easy to go on an 
LSD trip as it was to visit Disneyland. Interested parties could 
either contact the growing number of therapists who were using 
LSD in practice, or they could offer themselves as guinea pigs to 
any of the dozens of research projects that were under way at 
places like UCLA. Representative of the first approach was Thelma 
Moss, a former character actress turned "slick fiction" writer. 
Moss had heard Aldous Huxley talking about the Other World 
on a local television show, and before learning of Arthur Chan- 
dler and Mortimer Hartman, she had been prepared to search 
out some of Gordon Wasson's magic mushrooms in Mexico. Moss 
made an appointment with Chandler and Hartman, and after 
deciding on a psychological problem that would focus the ses- 
sions (she chose frigidity), she took the first of twenty-three LSD 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics • 2 3 

Moss was not a novice when it came to psychoanalysis. She 
had been in therapy for years. But she had never really, in her 
heart of hearts, believed that there was such a thing as the un- 
conscious. LSD convinced her. During one session she suddenly 
became a legless beggar caught in a desert sandstorm, a scene 
right out of King Solomon's Mines, except that deep inside her- 
self she heard a voice whispering, I died here. Another time she 
watched her insides explode into flames with such force that 
she was flung against the wall. It reminded her a little of how 
emotions sometimes multiplied until every pore was engulfed, 
only this was "a vastly more ruthless force" (students of Kundalini 
take note). "What is it," she kept crying to her therapist, who 
finally gave her a tranquilizer. 

Moss never knew where she would land after she passed 
through the Door. "Truth and lies and absurdity and grandeur 
were all mixed together in the psychedelic experience," she wrote. 
"In an effort to separate them, I would return for the next ses- 
sion, and the next, hoping each time that with this next session 
the truth would be revealed." It never was. But what did happen 
was so incredible, so contrary to the slick fiction that was her 
bread and butter, that she began keeping notes. 

The other way to the Other World, the research project route, 
was exemplified by George Goodman, who is probably better 
known as the economist and writer Adam Smith Goodman signed 
up for a UCLA project and was told by the director, "You are the 
astronauts of inner space. You are going deeper into the mind 
than anyone has gone so far, and you will come back to tell us 
what you found." 

One of the things Goodman found was that he could see all 
"the basic molecules of the universe. . . all the component parts, 
little building blocks of DNA." He conscientiously drew a picture 
of what he thought was DNA, but it turned out to be a plastic 
monomer marketed by Dupont called Delrin That didn't dampen 
Goodman's amazement, however, because up until taking the 
LSD he had had a banker's knowledge of molecules and chemi- 
cal notation, which is to say he knew absolutely nothing about 

There was something in the American psyche that craved 
spiritual adventure, something which writer Peter Mathiessen 
described as a "deep restlessness." Mathiessen had been a leader 
of the postwar Parisian expatriate scene, one of the founders of 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

Paris Review. But he'd also become involved with the Gurdjieff 
work and that stirred a yearning that he described this way: "One 
turns in all directions and sees nothing. Yet one senses that there 
is a source for this deep restlessness; and the path that leads 
there is not a path to a strange place, but the path home." In 
Peru Mathiessen experimented with yage. Then he hooked up 
with a "renegade psychiatrist" in New York and started using 
LSD. "Most were magic shows," he later wrote. "After each— even 
the bad ones— I seemed to go more lightly on my way, leaving 
behind old residues of rage and pain." 

Mathiessen was fortunate. Whenever his girlfriend took LSD 
it precipitated a terrifying confrontation with her own death. 
Since this was a fairly common occurrence for anyone who spent 
much time in the Other World, it is worth quoting Mathiessen's 
description of a bad trip: 

She started to laugh, and her mouth opened wide and she could 
not close it; her armor had cracked, and all the night winds of the 
world went howling through. Turning to me, she saw my flesh 
dissolve, my head become a skull— the whole night went like that. 
Yet she later saw that she might free herself by living out the fear 
of death, the demoniac sage at one's own helplessness that the 
drug hallucinations seem to represent, and in that way let go of a 
life-killing accumulation of defenses. And she accepted the one 
danger of the mystical search: there was no way back without 
doing oneself harm. Many paths appear, but once the way is taken, 
it must be followed to the end. 

If people like Mathiessen had a code, it was "there are no casual 

One of the reasons LSD therapy was booming was because 
qualms about the drug's safety had been laid to rest in mid- 
1960, when Sidney Cohen published his findings on adverse re- 
actions. Cohen surveyed a sample of five thousand individuals 
who had taken LSD twenty-five thousand times. He found an 
average of 1.8 psychotic episodes per thousand ingestions, 1.2 
attempted suicides, and 0.4 completed suicides. "Considering 
the enormous scope of the psychic responses it induces," he 
concluded, "LSD is an astonishingly safe drug." With the ques- 
tion of safety out of the way, interest then focused on the best 

A Pifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 2 5 

way to use mind-expanding drugs. There were two schools of 
thought: those who saw LSD as a "facilitator" of traditional 
therapy, be it Freudian or otherwise, and those who followed the 
Hubbard-Osmond practice of giving huge dosages and trying, 
through the subtle use of cues, to produce a psychedelic or inte- 
grative experience. This became known as psychedelic therapy, 
as opposed to the more mainstream psycholytic therapy. It got 
so astute students of the literature could guess the theoretical 
orientation of an LSD monograph simply by its title: psycholytic 
papers had headings like "LSD as a Facilitating Agent in Psycho- 
therapy" or "Resolution and Subsequent Remobilization of Re- 
sistance by LSD in Psychotherapy"; whereas psychedelic ones 
favored things like "LSD; Alcoholism and Transcendence" or "LSD 
and the New Beginning." 

There were certain constants, of course, set and setting be- 
ing the most notable. But from there the different techniques 
diverged rather dramatically. Psycholyticists like Chandler and 
Hartman took a lot of time, using small dosages, establishing a 
path to the unconscious— sort of a maintenance road— before 
any real exploration began. What they tried to do was create a 
state of conscious dreaming, and the way they did it was by 
masking the various senses. With the eyes blocked, the mind 
would begin projecting inner movies, sort of like "a 3-D film 
tape... being run off in the visual field," as one therapist described 
it. Some of these film loops were of actual incidents, forgotten 
since childhood, but most were composed of that symbolic pa- 
tois that Freud felt was the true language of the unconscious, of 
psychic reality rather than objective reality. 

The patients, asked to maintain a running commentary on 
what they were seeing, would report things like: I'm in a black 
tunnel . . . there is a grayish light at the end of it. . . I'm moving 
toward it. . . . There was a moment in one of Thelma Moss's 
sessions when she came to an abyss. Explore it, the doctor sug- 

As I plummeted down, I felt myself growing smaller and smaller 
. . . I was becoming a child. . . a very small child. . . a baby. . . I was 
a baby. I was not remembering being a baby— I was literally a 
baby. (The conscious part of me realized I was experiencing the 
phenomena of "age regression, " familiar in hypnosis. But in this 
case, although I had become a baby, I remained at the same time 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

a grown woman lying on a couch. This was a double state of 
being.) The leg of the baby that I was (my own adult leg) suddenly 
jerked into the air and I whimpered in the voice of a little child: 
"They stuck me with a needle!" Before I could find out who had 
stuck me with a needle, I was playing with round violet-colored 
marbles. . . which changed into squares. . . then rectangles. . . 
which grew long and high and became the four sides of a play- 
pen. I was inside the playpen. My brother was outside it, playing. 
I whined like a baby: "They let him play outside but I have to stay 
in here... " 

Then the playpen vanished and Moss found herself gazing into 
a big purple jewel, which became an amethyst pendant hanging 
from her mother's neck, which became her mother's face, purple 
with rage, and she was shaking someone that turned into a rag 
doll that turned into Moss. 

That was what was at the bottom of that abyss. 

No doubt because they were Freudians, Chandler and 
Hartman elicited a lot of childhood sexual trauma, Oedipus com- 
plexes, penis envy, but they also observed elements of the Jun- 
gian unconscious, the wise old man archetype, the symbol of 
evil archetype. Sometimes mythological creatures appeared, drag- 
ons and Japanese devil gods. And just as Huxley had written, 
there was a hellish dimension to the Other World, a Dark Wood 
that everyone stumbled into eventually. A few passed through 
to something else and returned convinced that they had looked 
into the heart of creation. Had they? After some thought, Chan- 
dler and Hartman decided this mystical gnosis was one of LSD's 
potential drawbacks, since the patient was generally uninterested 
in further therapy. 

But it was precisely this mystic gnosis that interested the 
psychedelic therapists. Using one large dose and a grab bag of 
nonverbal cues, after hours of interviewing, testing, analyzing, 
and prepping, the psychedelic therapist tried to lead the patient 
to that self-shattering point where he merged with the world— 
the point known to the Buddhists as satori , to the Hindus as 
samadhi , and to the psychological community as "a temporary 
loss of differentiation of the self and the outer world." It was a 
realm of pure potential, and if the psychedelic therapist was 
skilled, the effects could be dramatic. Osmond and Hoffer's suc- 
cess rate with chronic alcoholics was hovering between 50 and 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 2 7 

70 percent, while Al Hubbard's clinic at Hollywood Hospital re- 
ported a figure in the low eighties. 

An update on Mr. Hubbard. Despite the misgivings of 
Humphrey Osmond, who felt it would create more problems than 
it would solve, Hubbard had gotten his PhD. in psychology from 
a Tennessee diploma mill. He was now Dr. Hubbard, at least on 
his stationery. It may be that in some sense Al felt he needed 
proof of intellectual parity, poor barefoot boy that he was, sur- 
rounded by the likes of Huxley and Heard. Perhaps he coveted 
their Oxbridge erudition. If so, it was an ironic situation, he long- 
ing to discourse intelligently about Jung and the Other World, 
while they envied him his simple American ability to get things 
done, whether it was a business deal or a guided tour of the 
Other World. But whatever Hubbard did, there was always a lot 
of shrewd practicality to it, and getting his doctorate was no 
different. Hubbard had decided— I lapse momentarily here into 
Leary's transactional terminology— that the one game he wanted 
to play was the psychedelic research game, with his own clinic, 
patients, colleagues, and before he could do that he needed cre- 

To be blunt, Hubbard had burned his bridges to pursue LSD; 
he had let his business interests wither from inattention, which 
can be stressful for a man with a Rolls Royce-island-estate 
lifestyle. Despite his genuine human hunger to find out what 
was happening in the mind's depths, Hubbard had not been 
unaware of the possibility that an LSD clinic might prove profit- 
able. What he had needed was a doctor to provide the necessary 
medical expertise, and he had found him in the person of Ross 
McLean, the administrator of Hollywood Hospital, in New 
Westminster, British Columbia. McLean had given Hubbard a suite 
of rooms and in 1958 the first private Canadian clinic to use LSD 
therapy opened for business. 

Hubbard's clinic became the testing ground for psychedelic 
therapy. In 1959 it attracted the attention of Ben Metcalfe, a lo- 
cal reporter. Hubbard invited Metcalfe to stop by for a two-day 
session, and Metcalfe did. He took the drug in Al's specially de- 
signed session room— Dali's Last Supper over the couch, 
Gauguin's Buddha on the far wall, another Dali, a crucifix, a small 
altar, a stereo system, burning candles, a statue of the Virgin. 
Metcalfe landed in a part of the Other World that was compa- 
rable to MGM's film library, particularly the section where his- 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

torical epics were stored. There were Flashes of Carthage and 
ancient Rome segueing into landscapes out of Titian; great battles 
fleetingly glimpsed; figures that were unmistakably 
Shakespearian. It would have been immensely entertaining had 
it not ended in a fit of weeping. Not sniffly little whimpers, but 
great heaving sobs. "This is all repressed material coming out," 
Doctor Hubbard said. "This is what we bury to become men." 

It went on like that, with Metcalfe emoting and crying and 
mumbling to himself, while Al sat meditatively alongside, rarely 
interrupting. One of the most difficult things that a psychedelic 
therapist had to learn was how to do nothing, how to become 
transparent, yet remain attentive enough to respond at the cru- 
cial moment, like when Metcalfe began shouting, "I must be in- 
sane! I must be." A good therapist had to know which cue would 
untie this particular knot. Which picture, which whispered ob- 
servation. "We're all insane when it comes to confronting our- 
selves," Al murmured. And there was a big click in Metcalfe's 
mind and he went shooting up toward this bright central sun, 
and as he flew, it seemed to him that his earthly ties, his kids, his 
wife, his job, all floated away from him like "flashes of multi- 
colored snow vanishing in the darkness while I sped upwards." 

It felt like death. 

"Did I die?" Metcalfe asked. 

"No one really dies," said Captain Al. 

Hubbard's one published work, "The Use of LSD-25 in the 
Treatment of Alcoholism and Other Psychiatric Problems" (Quart. 
J. Stud. Alcohol, 1961), was frequently cited in the literature, but 
his biggest contribution was the Hubbard room, the stereo play- 
ing Bach, the vaguely spiritual pictures. Although few research- 
ers knew its provenance, duplicates appeared wherever psyche- 
delic therapy gained a foothold. 

Though there were some classic psychedelic therapists— 
Hoffer and Osmond in Saskatchewan come to mind, the Kurland 
group in Catonsville, Maryland— who used LSD in an almost old- 
fashioned way, a lot of the psychedelic therapists were new to 
the profession, either recent graduates or converts like Hubbard 
and his former protege, Myron Stolaroff, and this was going to 
cause problems. In their enthusiasm they returned from the Other 
World with a childlike energy that was often obnoxious to their 
middle-aged peers. They cut corners and bruised feelings and 
this more than anything contributed to the jealousy that lay be- 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 29 

hind the aura of "bad science" that began to surround LSD 

Myron Stolaroff was a good example. Stolaroff had been in 
charge of long-range planning at Ampex, one of the first of the 
big electronics firms to settle south of the Bay Area, when he 
had been bitten by the psychedelic bug. Together with Hubbard 
he had tried to interest Ampex' s management in a program that 
would use LSD to solve all kinds of corporate problems, inter- 
personal problems, design problems, a long-range planning prob- 
lems. But the plan had foundered on Al's penchant for Christian 
mysticism. Stolaroff didn't let go, though: he started holding 
weekly LSD sessions for some of Ampex's more adventurous 
engineers; Hubbard came down from Canada one weekend and 
took them all to a remote cabin in the Sierras where he guided 
them through the kind of ontological earthquake only Al could 
manufacture. The senior management of Ampex had been hor- 
rified. Having gotten to know Hubbard through rather extraor- 
dinary circumstances, it didn't seem at all irrational for them to 
be worrying, "What if this nutball drives our best men crazy?" So 
there had been sighs of relief when Stolaroff decided to leave 
Ampex and set up his own nonprofit psychedelic research cen- 
ter in Menlo Park, California— the International Foundation for 
Advanced Study. 

The Foundation, which opened in March 1961, wasn't the 
only organization working with LSD in the San Francisco area. 
The Palo Alto Mental Research Institute had been studying the 
drug since 1958, and had been instrumental in introducing doz- 
ens of local psychiatrists and psychologists, as well as interested 
laymen like Allen Ginsberg, to the perplexities of the Other World. 
But the Institute's composure had been shaken by several terri- 
fying incidents— colossal bad trips in which the subject returned 
from the Other World in questionable shape— and interest in 
LSD's therapeutic potential had diminished. LSD programs were 
also under way at the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital, the San Mateo 
County Hospital, and Napa State Hospital, but no one was offer- 
ing psychedelic therapy, and what little research was being done 
was unexciting: Leo Hollister (who will soon reappear in associa- 
tion with a hopeful young writer named Ken Kesey), at the Vet- 
erans Hospital, was still doing model psychoses work. 

The point was that most LSD researchers were fairly conser- 
vative. So when a couple of engineers set up shop (Stolaroff's 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

vice president, Willis Harman, had been an engineering profes- 
sor at Stanford) and began poaching bread and butter patients— 
unlike Osmond and Hoffer, Stolaroff wasn't just concentrating 
on chronic alcoholics, he was soliciting the man off the street, 
who in this case was the neurotic professional in the high tech- 
high education hub that surrounded Stanford— there were more 
than raised eyebrows. Charging five hundred dollars for one ses- 
sion with a highly questionable drug? The whole thing smacked 
of chicanery, despite the fact that Stolaroff had a licensed psy- 
chiatrist running the actual therapy sessions. But what was worse, 
it was chicanery with good word of mouth. The San Mateo Call 
Bulletin , scenting a medical scandal, had interviewed a number 
of Stolaroff's patients and found them laudatory to the point of 
hyperbole. At the Foundation's first and last open house, Stolaroff 
had been cornered by a disgruntled therapist who growled, "One 
of my ex-patients thinks you're a saint," making it clear that he 
thought Stolaroff was a charlatan. What was one to make, after 
all, of the Call Bulletin's statement that the Foundation's aims 
were "partly medical, partly scientific, partly philosophical, partly 
mystical"? The first two, okay, but philosophy was for philoso- 
phers, and mysticism? mysticism was for cranks! 

It was a situation that was a little analogous to Leary's at 
Harvard, in the sense that the local therapeutic community was 
so totally absorbed with the pointing finger (questionable pro- 
fessionals using questionable drugs to produce questionable 
cures) that it was almost as if it didn't want to look at the moon. 
The Foundation was not reticent about the data it was seeing. 
Seventy-eight percent of its patients claimed an increased ability 
to love; 69 percent felt they could handle hostility better, with 
an equal percentage believing that their ability to communicate 
with and understand others had improved; 71 percent claimed 
an increase in self-esteem, and 83 percent returned from the 
Other World with the conviction that they had brushed against 
"a higher power, or ultimate reality." 

Robert Mogar, the Foundation's expert in such diagnostic 
tools as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, had 
never seen anything that could produce the kind of dramatic 
changes that LSD routinely produced. Part of the usefulness of 
the MMPI was the fact that some of its scales were remarkably 
stable, which provided a background against which other per- 
sonality changes could be measured. But under LSD these stable 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 3 1 

scales, which generally pertained to beliefs and values, fluctu- 
ated wildly. To augment the MMPI, Stolaroff began using a vari- 
ant of Oscar Janiger's elaborate card distribution system. This 
consisted of a hundred statements that the patient arranged in 
nine piles, ranging from those he agreed with least (pile one) to 
those he wholeheartedly endorsed (pile nine). Three times the 
cards were sorted into piles, once at the beginning of the pro- 
gram, two days after the LSD session, and then again in two 
months' time. The changes were consonant with what other re- 
searchers were beginning to report. Cards with statements like, 
"Although I try not to show it, I really worry quite a bit about 
whether I will prove adequate in meeting the challenge of life," 
tended to move down the scale. While those bearing statements 
like, "I believe that I exist not only in the familiar world of space 
and time, but also in a realm having a timeless, eternal quality," 
jumped to the top. 

Of course there were some negative reactions. One patient 
felt he had been harmed mentally and roughly a quarter of the 
others complained that they now tended to lapse into daydreams 
with greater frequency. More troubling, but entirely understand- 
able if the data about changes in worldview were correct, was an 
increase in marital problems— 27 percent of the experimental 
subjects and 1 6 percent of the paying patients reported increased 
friction with their spouses. 

The Foundation's theoretical manifesto— The Psychedelic 
Experience: A New Concept in Psychotherapy— was submitted for 
publication in late 1961. In it, the psychedelic experience was 
broken into three broad stages: (1) evasive maneuvers, (2) sym- 
bolic perception, and (3) immediate perception. 

The evasive stage, according to the authors, was what earlier 
therapists had confused with schizophrenia, leading to LSD's 
misclassification as a psychotomimetic. What happened was this: 
the drug, by its very nature, released such a flood of new thoughts 
and perceptions that the patient's normal conceptual framework 
was overwhelmed, producing a panic condition with overtones 
of paranoia. But with skillful manipulation of set and setting, 
the therapist could guide the patient smoothly through the eva- 
sive stage to the point where the overly famous hallucinations 
began. These shifting geometrical patterns were a last gasp of 
an ego which, "having lost the battle to divert attention through 
unpleasantness, seeks to charm and distract the conscious mind 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

by throwing up a smokescreen of hallucinations to hide the in- 
ner knowledge which it fears." 

Actually, the hallucinatory level was a preparation for the 
realm of symbolic perception, which was where the 
psycholyticists spent most of their time, deciphering the curi- 
ous symbolic patois: "The subject constantly works off repressed 
material and unreality structures, false concepts, ideas, and atti- 
tudes, which have been accumulated through his life experiences. 
Thus a form of psychological cleansing seems to accompany the 
subjective imagery. This results in considerable ventilation and 
release almost independent of intellectual clarification. Gradu- 
ally the subject comes to see and accept himself, not as an indi- 
vidual with 'good' and 'bad' characteristics, but as one who sim- 
ply is." 

But there was also a higher level still. Past the symbolic stage 
was a land of no boundaries: 

The central perception, apparently of all who penetrate deeply in 
their explorations, is that behind the apparent multiplicity of things 
in the world of science and common sense there is a single reality, 
in speaking of which it seems appropriate to use such words as 
infinite and eternal. 

As Abram Hoff er had told the last Macy Conference, if you could 
lead a patient to this point, then nine times out of ten a cure 
would miraculously occur. Why this happened was not easily 
explained in psychological terms (as Leary had realized when he 
decided to opt for the rhetoric of applied mysticism). But it 
seemed to be something like this: overwhelmed by the realiza- 
tion that one was an "imperishable self rather than a destruct- 
ible ego," the patient underwent a kind of psychic expansion, in 
which "the many conflicts which are rooted in lack of self accep- 
tance are cut off at the source, and the associated neurotic be- 
havior patterns begin to die away." As the self expanded, it burst 
the webbing of unhappy relationships that had tethered it to the 

Another analogy: Imagine the self as an oxbow lake, which is 
formed when a meander is cut off from the main body of a shal- 
low, slow-moving river. Over time, unless fresh sources of water 
are found, the oxbow begins to stagnate, becoming first a marsh, 
then a swamp, as vegetation (thickets of received ideas, neuro- 

A Pifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 3 3 

ses, etc.) starts to compete for oxygen. Psycholytic therapy, you 
might say, contented itself with removing the vegetation; psy- 
chedelic therapy, on the other hand, operated by dynamiting the 
obstruction and restoring the oxbow to what, in fact, it had al- 
ways been: a lazy curve in a broad, flowing river. Both methods 
achieved the desired result, which was health, but in the second 
case something totally new (from the perspective of the oxbow 
world) was created. The psycholytic therapist used LSD to 
heighten the traditional psychotherapeutic values of recall, abre- 
action, and emotional release. But the psychedelic therapist was 
doing something entirely new, and whether he followed Tim Leary 
and called it applied mysticism, or the psychedelic experience, 
the integrative experience, or peak experience, it had an unmis- 
takable and unwelcome odor. To discover, in the recesses of the 
mind, something that felt a lot like God, was not a situation that 
either organized science or organized religion wished to con- 
template. Yet this was the implication of psychedelic research 
everywhere, not just at Harvard. 

What sprang up was more a climate of criticism than any 
one specific charge. The profession began to worry. It worried 
about whether LSD, with its plunge into the deep unconscious, 
was an appropriate direction for a mental health movement 
whose raison d'etre was the molding of healthy, adjusted egos. 
Could it promote the right sort of behavior change? It worried 
about the cure rates— Hubbard's 80 percent with chronic alco- 
holics was unbelievable— which was the start of the bad science 
criticism, one variant of which went like this: "LSD is a hallucino- 
gen, researchers are taking it as well as giving it, therefore they 
must be hallucinating their data." That was the charitable bad 
science interpretation. The uncharitable interpretation main- 
tained that LSD therapists, besides hallucinating their data, were 
actually making their patients sicker. And they didn't even real- 
ize this because the drugs were giving them delusions of gran- 
deur (comparing themselves with the Mercury astronauts or 
Galileo, what rot!). Psychedelics were revealing a nasty (or a ri- 
val) strain of evangelism within the Cinderella science: every- 
where you looked therapists were turning into lower-case gurus, 
with adherents rather than clients. 

Roy Grinker put it as bluntly as possible in the Archives of 
General Psychiatry. "Latent psychotics are disintegrating under 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

the influence of even single doses; long-continued LSD experi- 
ences are subtly creating a psychopathology. Psychic addiction 
is being developed." 

Grinker cited no data to back up these rather serious charges. 
He cited no data for the simple reason that there were none— 
Sidney Cohen's 1960 study on adverse reactions was still un- 
challenged in the literature. What Grinker was doing was pro- 
jecting his own professional biases. Believing that your average 
citizen was a barely functioning tissue of neuroses and incipient 
psychoses, Grinker found it inconceivable that the opening of 
the Pandora's box of the unconscious could be anything but di- 
sastrous. Whether they knew it or not, people who used LSD had 
to be disintegrating; Grinker's whole model of consciousness 
depended upon it. To a traditional psychiatrist like Grinker, con- 
sciousness expansion meant unconsciousness expansion, and 
that was unconscionable. 

Actually, a lot of the criticism over LSD can be reduced to a 
politics of perspective. A psychotomimeticist, for example, watch- 
ing the ego dissolve under the press of LSD, would jot down 
"depersonalization," while a Myron Stolaroff or a Tim Leary, faced 
with the same phenomenon, might record an instance of "mysti- 
cal union" or "integrative experience." Observing the flights of 
internal imagery caused by the drugs, the former would choose 
"hallucination" while the latter might select "visionary or sym- 
bolic interaction." As for the emotional highs that followed, the 
enthusiasm, one could either choose the psychopathological term, 
"euphoria," or go with the new psychedelic candidate, "ecstasy." 
When Abraham Maslow, a psychologist far removed from the 
LSD debate, published his first work on the curative effects of 
peak experiences (PE), psychedelic therapists like Hoffer quickly 
appropriated his vocabulary and the debate jumped to a new 
rhetorical level. 

What was happening was basically a turf war over who would 
control traffic to the Other World. Were mere psychologists, to 
say nothing of artists, theologians, or an engineer like Myron 
Stolaroff, competent and responsible enough to investigate the 
extremes of consciousness, even if it was their own conscious- 
ness? Who owned the scientific prospecting rights to the Other 
World? The medical community claimed it did. According to one 
Journal of the American Medical Association editorial, anything 
which altered a person's "mental and emotional equilibrium" 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 3 5 

was a medical procedure and "should therefore be under medi- 
cal control." In other words, LSD and its chemical brethren were 
part of psychiatry's weaponry, but not psychology's. Implicit in 
all this was the understanding that whoever received the min- 
eral rights to the Other World would also be allowed to define its 

Thus it was the theme of "irresponsibility" that rose to the 
fore in the summer of 1962. LSD "was a useful adjunct to psy- 
chotherapy" went the refrain, but unfortunately it attracted "un- 
stable therapists" who derived an "intoxicating sense of power" 
from bestowing such a fabulous experience on others. And these 
unstable therapists were the main reason why LSD was escap- 
ing, so to speak, from the lab. In July 1962, Sidney Cohen and 
Keith Ditman, writing in the Journal of the American Medical 
Association , drew attention to the phenomenon of the "LSD 
party"— a phenomenon that the California Narcotics Bureau, 
when queried by the LA Times, knew nothing about. Of course 
LSD parties had been part of the Los Angeles psychedelic scene 
since the mid-Fifties, but what was changing was the quality of 
the participant. A lot of kids were taking LSD, and not just col- 
lege kids, but the beatnik kids, the maladjusted rebels. To Cohen's 
way of thinking, the Beats were exactly the sort of borderline 
personality types who should be kept away from LSD at all cost. 
If not, then Grinker's editorial would become a self-fulfilling 

Besides alerting the medical community to the growing mis- 
use of LSD, Cohen also solicited more examples of adverse reac- 
tions. He published his findings in the spring of 1963. Nine inci- 
dents were explored, ranging from a psychologist who took LSD 
three times and then spent the next few weeks contemplating 
bizarre plots, one of which entailed the seizure of Sandoz's en- 
tire LSD supply, to a secretary for a therapist with a large LSD 
practice who had taken the drug somewhat more than two hun- 
dred times and less than three hundred— she was unsure of the 
exact figure. What she was sure of was that whenever she looked 
in a mirror, she saw a skull. 

Although adverse reactions were still rare, Cohen predicted 
that this would change as more therapists added LSD to their 
practice. The "inexpert" use of LSD could become a major health 
hazard, he wrote, and he recommended that use be "restricted 
to investigators in institutions and hospitals where the patients' 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

protection is greater and appropriate countermeasures are avail- 
able in case of adverse reaction." Projects like Leary's were pre- 
cisely what Cohen wanted to see ended. 

The debate over who was a responsible therapist and who an 
irresponsible charlatan became moot when Congress passed a 
law in the summer of 1962 that gave the FDA control over all 
new investigational drugs. Scheduled to take effect in June of 
1963, the law was principally aimed at the misuse of amphet- 
amines. But the result was that all researchers using experimen- 
tal drugs would now have to clear their research projects with 
Washington. No longer would it be possible to mail a form to 
Sandoz and receive in return LSD or psilocybin. 

It was unclear what effect the new regulations would have 
on LSD research, but a partial answer appeared at Oscar Janiger's 
door in the autumn of 1962, in the form of a regional FDA offi- 
cial. Well dressed, polite, he asked to review Janiger's LSD work. 
Then he told Janiger to turn over his remaining supply of the 
drug. Janiger was stunned, then angry. He made some phone 
calls and learned that others had received similar visits. 

Someone was turning off the research machine. 

But it was too late to turn off the publicity machine. The 
psychedelic bookshelf— once limited to Huxley and possibly the 
Wassons' massive Russia, Mushrooms and History —was expand- 
ing in rapid fashion, as Adelle Davis's Exploring Inner Space, 
Thelma Moss's Myself and I, and Alan Watts's The Joyous Cos- 
mology arrived in the bookshops. All three were anecdotal ac- 
counts of the Other World, but the similarity ended there. Adelle 
Davis, who'd taken LSD as part of Janiger's creativity study, had 
been transported to a phantasmagoric land suffused with the 
aurora borealis of God. "The most lasting value of the drug ex- 
perience," she wrote, "appears to be a number of convictions, 
most of them religious in nature, which are so strong that it 
makes not one iota of difference whether anyone agrees with 
them or not." LSD had led her to "a new faith in God, a faith so 
satisfying and rewarding that my lasting gratitude goes to the 
Sandoz Pharmaceutical Laboratories." Thelma Moss, on the other 
hand, had spent her sessions harrowing the Freudian Id. The 
flap copy on her book said it all: "I traveled deep into the buried 
regions of the Mind. 1 discovered that in addition to being, con- 
sciously, a loving mother and respectable citizen, I was, uncon- 

A Pifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 3 7 

sciously, a murderess, a pervert, a cannibal, a sadist and a mas- 
ochist." And then there was Watts's smooth essay, which Leary 
and Alpert in the introduction lauded as "the best statement on 
the subject of space-age mysticism" available. "Watts follows Mr. 
Huxley's lead and pushes beyond." 

Watts had a nice poetic feel for what it felt like to travel in 
the Other World, which is worth quoting: 

Back through the tunnels, through the devious status-and-sur- 
vival strategy of adult life, through the interminable passes which 
we remember in dreams... all the streets, the winding pathways 
between the legs of tables and chairs where one crawled as a 
child, the tight and bloody exit from the womb, the fountainous 
surge through the channel of the penis, the timeless wandering 
through ducts and spongy caverns. Down and back through ever 
narrowing tubes to the point where the passage itself is the trav- 
eler. . . relentlessly back and back through endless and whirling 
dances to the astronomically proportioned spaces which surround 
the original nuclei of the world, the centers of centers, as remotely 
distant on the inside as the nebulae beyond our galaxy on the 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 


by Alan Watts 

[California Law Review , 
Vol. 56, No. 1, January 1968, pp. 74-85.] 


he experiences resulting from the use of psychedelic drugs 
are often described in religious terms. They are therefore of in- 
terest to those like myself who, in the tradition of William James, 1 
are concerned with the psychology of religion. For more than 
thirty years I have been studying the causes, the consequences, 
and the conditions of those peculiar states of consciousness in 
which the individual discovers himself to be one continuous pro- 
cess with God, with the Universe, with the Ground of Being, or 
whatever name he may use by cultural conditioning or personal 
preference for the ultimate and eternal reality. We have no satis- 
factory and definitive name for experiences of this kind. The 
terms "religious experience," "mystical experience," and "cos- 
mic consciousness" are all too vague and comprehensive to de- 
note that specific mode of consciousness which, to those who 
have known it, is as real and overwhelming as falling in love. 
This article describes such states of consciousness induced by 
psychedelic drugs, although they are virtually indistinguishable 
from genuine mystical experience. The article then discusses 
objections to the use of psychedelic drugs that arise mainly from 
the opposition between mystical values and the traditional reli- 
gious and secular values of Western society. 

The Psychedelic Experience 

The idea of mystical experiences resulting from drug use is not 
readily accepted in Western societies. Western culture has, his- 
torically, a particular fascination with the value and virtue of 
man as an individual, self-determining, responsible ego, control- 
ling himself and his world by the power of conscious effort and 
will. Nothing, then, could be more repugnant to this cultural 
tradition than the notion of spiritual or psychological growth 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics • 39 

through the use of drugs. A "drugged" person is by definition 
dimmed in consciousness, fogged in judgment, and deprived of 
will. But not all psychotropic (consciousness-changing) chemi- 
cals are narcotic and soporific, as are alcohol, opiates, and barbi- 
turates. The effects of what are now called psychedelic (mind- 
manifesting) chemicals differ from those of alcohol as laughter 
differs from rage, or delight from depression. There is really no 
analogy between being "high" on LSD and "drunk" on bourbon. 
True, no one in either state should drive a car, but neither should 
one drive while reading a book, playing a violin, or making love. 
Certain creative activities and states of mind demand a concen- 
tration and devotion that are simply incompatible with piloting 
a death-dealing engine along a highway. 

I myself have experimented with five of the principal 
psychedelics: LSD-25, mescaline, psilocybin, dimethyl-tryptamine 
(DMT), and cannabis. I have done so, as William James tried ni- 
trous oxide, to see if they could help me in identifying what 
might be called the "essential" or "active" ingredients of the 
mystical experience. For almost all the classical literature on 
mysticism is vague, not only in describing the experience, but 
also in showing rational connections between the experience it- 
self and the various traditional methods recommended to in- 
duce it: fasting, concentration, breathing exercises, prayers, in- 
cantations, and dances. A traditional master of Zen or Yoga, when 
asked why such-and-such practices lead or predispose one to 
the mystical experience, always responds, "This is the way my 
teacher gave it to me. This is the way I found out. If you're seri- 
ously interested, try it for yourself." This answer hardly satisfies 
an impertinent, scientifically minded, and intellectually curious 
Westerner. It reminds him of archaic medical prescriptions com- 
pounding five salamanders, powdered gallows rope, three boiled 
bats, a scruple of phosphorus, three pinches of henbane, and a 
dollop of dragon dung dropped when the moon was in Pisces. 
Maybe it worked, but what was the essential ingredient? 

It struck me, therefore, that if any of the psychedelic chemi- 
cals would in fact predispose my consciousness to the mystical 
experience, I could use them as instruments for studying and 
describing that experience as one uses a microscope for bacteri- 
ology, even though the microscope is an "artificial" and "un- 
natural" contrivance which might be said to "distort" the vision 
of the naked eye. However, when I was first invited to test the 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

mystical qualities of LSD-2 5 by Dr. Keith Ditman of the Neurop- 
sychiatric Clinic at UCLA Medical School, I was unwilling to be- 
lieve that any mere chemical could induce a genuine mystical 
experience. At most, it might bring about a state of spiritual 
insight analogous to swimming with water wings. Indeed, my 
first experiment with LSD-2 5 was not mystical. It was an intensely 
interesting aesthetic and intellectual experience that challenged 
my powers of analysis and careful description to the utmost. 

Some months later, in 1959, I tried LSD-25 again with Drs. 
Sterling Bunnell and Michael Agron, who were then associated 
with the Langley-Porter Clinic, in San Francisco. In the course of 
two experiments I was amazed and somewhat embarrassed to 
find myself going through states of consciousness that corre- 
sponded precisely with every description of major mystical ex- 
periences that I had ever read. 2 Furthermore, they exceeded 
both in depth and in a peculiar quality of unexpectedness the 
three "natural and spontaneous" experiences of this kind that 
had happened to me in previous years. 

Through subsequent experimentation with LSD-25 and the 
other chemicals named above (with the exception of DMT, which 
I find amusing but relatively uninteresting), I found I could move 
with ease into the state of "cosmic consciousness," and in due 
course became less and less dependent on the chemicals them- 
selves for "tuning in" to this particular wave length of experi- 
ence. Of the five psychedelics tried, I found that LSD-25 and 
cannabis suited my purposes best. Of these two, the latter— 
cannabis— which I had to use abroad in countries where it is not 
outlawed, proved to be the better. It does not induce bizarre 
alterations of sensory perception, and medical studies indicate 
that it may not, save in great excess, have the dangerous side 
effects of LSD. 

For the purposes of this study, in describing my experiences 
with psychedelic drugs I avoid the occasional and incidental bi- 
zarre alterations of sense perception that psychedelic chemicals 
may induce. I am concerned, rather, with the fundamental alter- 
ations of the normal, socially induced consciousness of one's 
own existence and relation to the external world. I am trying to 
delineate the basic principles of psychedelic awareness. But I 
must add that I can speak only for myself. The quality of these 
experiences depends considerably upon one's prior orientation 
and attitude to life, although the now voluminous descriptive 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 41 

literature of these experiences accords quite remarkably with 
my own. 

Almost invariably, my experiments with psychedelics have 
had four dominant characteristics. I shall try to explain them in 
the expectation that the reader will say, at least of the second 
and third, "Why, that's obvious! No one needs a drug to see that." 
Quite so, but every insight has degrees of intensity. There can be 
obvious- 1 and obvious-2, and the latter comes on with shatter- 
ing clarity, manifesting its implications in every sphere and di- 
mension of our existence. 

The first characteristic is a slowing down of time, a concen- 
tration in the present. One's normally compulsive concern for 
the future decreases, and one becomes aware of the enormous 
importance and interest of what is happening at the moment. 
Other people, going about their business on the streets, seem to 
be slightly crazy, failing to realize that the whole point of life is 
to be fully aware of it as it happens. One therefore relaxes, al- 
most luxuriously, into studying the colors in a glass of water, or 
in listening to the now highly articulate vibration of every note 
played on an oboe or sung by a voice. 

From the pragmatic standpoint of our culture, such an atti- 
tude is very bad for business. It might lead to improvidence, 
lack of foresight, diminished sales of insurance policies, and 
abandoned savings accounts. Yet this is just the corrective that 
our culture needs. No one is more fatuously impractical than 
the "successful" executive who spends his whole life absorbed 
in frantic paper work with the objective of retiring in comfort at 
sixty-five, when it will all be too late. Only those who have culti- 
vated the art of living completely in the present have any use for 
making plans for the future, for when the plans mature they will 
be able to enjoy the results. "Tomorrow never comes." I have 
never yet heard a preacher urging his congregation to practice 
that section of the Sermon on the Mount which begins, "Be not 
anxious for the morrow. ..." The truth is that people who live 
for the future are, as we say of the insane, "not quite all there"— 
or here: by over-eagerness they are perpetually missing the point. 
Foresight is bought at the price of anxiety, and when overused it 
destroys all its own advantages. 

The second characteristic I will call awareness of polarity .This 
is the vivid realization that states, things, and events that we 
ordinarily call opposite are interdependent, like back and front, 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

or the poles of a magnet. By polar awareness one sees that things 
which are explicitly different are implicitly one: self and other, 
subject and object, left and right, male and female— and then, a 
little more surprisingly, solid and space, figure and background, 
pulse and interval, saints and sinners, police and criminals, in- 
groups and out-groups. Each is definable only in terms of the 
other, and they go together transactionally, like buying and sell- 
ing, for there is no sale without a purchase, and no purchase 
without a sale. As this awareness becomes increasingly intense, 
you feel that you yourself are polarized with the external uni- 
verse in such a way that you imply each other. Your push is its 
pull, and its push is your pull— as when you move the steering 
wheel of a car. Are you pushing it or pulling it? 

At first, this is a very odd sensation, not unlike hearing your 
own voice played back to you on an electronic system immedi- 
ately after you have spoken. You become confused, and wait for 
it to go on! Similarly, you feel that you are something being done 
by the universe, yet that the universe is equally something being 
done by you— which is true, at least in the neurological sense 
that the peculiar structure of our brains translates the sun into 
light, and air vibrations into sound. Our normal sensation of 
relationship to the outside world is that sometimes I push it, 
and sometimes it pushes me. But if the two are actually one, 
where does action begin and responsibility rest? If the universe 
is doing me, how can I be sure that, two seconds hence, I will still 
remember the English language? If I am doing it, how can I be 
sure that, two seconds hence, my brain will know how to turn 
the sun into light? From such unfamiliar sensations as these, the 
psychedelic experience can generate confusion, paranoia, and 
terror— even though the individual is feeling his relationship to 
the world exactly as it would be described by a biologist, ecolo- 
gist, or physicist, for he is feeling himself as the unified field of 
organism and environment. 

The third characteristic, arising from the second, is aware- 
ness of relativity. I see that I am a link in an infinite hierarchy of 
processes and beings, ranging from molecules through bacteria 
and insects to human beings, and, maybe, to angels and gods— 
a hierarchy in which every level is in effect the same situation. 
For example, the poor man worries about money while the rich 
man worries about his health: the worry is the same, but the 
difference is in its substance or dimension. I realize that fruit 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 43 

flies must think of themselves as people, because, like ourselves, 
they find themselves in the middle of their own world— with 
immeasurably greater things above and smaller things below. 
To us, they all look alike and seem to have no personality— as do 
the Chinese when we have not lived among them. Yet fruit flies 
must see just as many subtle distinctions among themselves as 
we among ourselves. 

From this it is but a short step to the realization that all 
forms of life and being are simply variations on a single theme: 
we are all in fact one being doing the same thing in as many 
different ways as possible. As the French proverb goes, plus ga 
change, plus c'est la meme chose (the more it varies, the more it 
is one). I see, further, that feeling threatened by the inevitability 
of death is really the same experience as feeling alive, and that 
as all beings are feeling this everywhere, they are all just as much 
"I" as myself. Yet the "I" feeling, to be felt at all, must always be 
a sensation relative to the "other"-to something beyond its con- 
trol and experience. To be at all, it must begin and end. But the 
intellectual jump that mystical and psychedelic experiences make 
here is in enabling you to see that all these myriad I-centers are 
yourself— not, indeed, your personal and superficially conscious 
ego, but what Hindus call the paramatman , the Self of all selves. 3 
As the retina enables us to see countless pulses of energy as a 
single light, so the mystical experience shows us innumerable 
individuals as a single Self. 

The fourth characteristic is awareness of eternal energy, of- 
ten in the form of intense white light, which seems to be both 
the current in your nerves and that mysterious e which equals 
mc 2 . This may sound like megalomania or delusion of grandeur— 
but one sees quite clearly that all existence is a single energy, 
and that this energy is one's own being. Of course there is death 
as well as life, because energy is a pulsation, and just as waves 
must have both crests and troughs, the experience of existing 
must go on and off. Basically, therefore, there is simply nothing 
to worry about, because you yourself are the eternal energy of 
the universe playing hide-and-seek (off-and-on) with itself. At 
root, you are the Godhead, for God is all that there is. Quoting 
Isaiah just a little out of context: "I am the Lord, and there is 
none else. I form the light and create the darkness: I make peace, 
and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things." 4 This is the 
sense of the fundamental tenet of Hinduism, Tat tram asi — 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

"THAT (i.e., "that subtle Being of which this whole universe is 
composed") art thou." 5 A classical case of this experience, from 
the West, is in Tennyson's Memoirs: 

A kind of waking trance I have frequently had, quite up from 
boyhood, when I have been all alone. This has generally come 
upon me thro' repeating my own name two or three times to 
myself silently, till all at once, as it were out of the intensity of the 
consciousness of individuality, the individuality itself seemed to 
dissolve and fade away into boundless being, and this not a con- 
fused state, but the clearest of the clearest, the surest of the sur- 
est, the weirdest of the weirdest, utterly beyond words, where death 
was an almost laughable impossibility, the loss of personality (if 
so it were) seeming no extinction but the only true life. 6 

Obviously, these characteristics of the psychedelic experience, 
as I have known it, are aspects of a single state of conscious- 
ness—for I have been describing the same thing from different 
angles. The descriptions attempt to convey the reality of the 
experience, but in doing so they also suggest some of the incon- 
sistencies between such experience and the current values of 

Opposition to Psychedelic Drugs 

Resistance to allowing use of psychedelic drugs originates in 
both religious and secular values. The difficulty in describing 
psychedelic experiences in traditional religious terms suggests 
one ground of opposition. The Westerner must borrow such 
words as samadhi or moksha from the Hindus, or satori or kensho 
from the Japanese, to describe the experience of oneness with 
the universe. We have no appropriate word because our own 
Jewish and Christian theologies will not accept the idea that man's 
inmost self can be identical with the Godhead, even though Chris- 
tians may insist that this was true in the unique instance of Jesus 
Christ. Jews and Christians think of God in political and monar- 
chical terms, as the supreme governor of the universe, the ulti- 
mate boss. Obviously, it is both socially unacceptable and logi- 
cally preposterous for a particular individual to claim that he, in 
person, is the omnipotent and omniscient ruler of the world— to 
be accorded suitable recognition and honor. 

A Pifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 45 

Such an imperial and kingly concept of the ultimate reality, 
however, is neither necessary nor universal. The Hindus and the 
Chinese have no difficulty in conceiving of an identity of the self 
and the Godhead. For most Asians, other than Muslims, the 
Godhead moves and manifests the world in much the same way 
that a centipede manipulates a hundred legs— spontaneously, 
without deliberation or calculation. In other words, they con- 
ceive the universe by analogy with an organism as distinct from 
a mechanism. They do not see it as an artifact or construct un- 
der the conscious direction of some supreme technician, engi- 
neer, or architect. 

If, however, in the context of Christian or Jewish tradition, 
an individual declares himself to be one with God, he must be 
dubbed blasphemous (subversive) or insane. Such a mystical 
experience is a clear threat to traditional religious concepts. The 
Judaeo-Christian tradition has a monarchical image of God, and 
monarchs, who rule by force, fear nothing more than insubordi- 
nation. The Church has therefore always been highly suspicious 
of mystics, because they seem to be insubordinate and to claim 
equality or, worse, identity with God. For this reason, John Scotus 
Erigena and Meister Eckhart were condemned as heretics. This 
was also why the Quakers faced opposition for their doctrine of 
the Inward Light, and for their refusal to remove hats in church 
and in court. A few occasional mystics may be all right so long 
as they watch their language, like St. Teresa of Avila and St. John 
of the Cross, who maintained, shall we say, a metaphysical dis- 
tance of respect between themselves and their heavenly King. 
Nothing, however, could be more alarming to the ecclesiastical 
hierarchy than a popular outbreak of mysticism, for this might 
well amount to setting up a democracy in the kingdom of 
heaven— and such alarm would be shared equally by Catholics, 
Jews, and fundamentalist Protestants. 

The monarchical image of God, with its implicit distaste for 
religious insubordination, has a more pervasive impact than many 
Christians might admit. The thrones of kings have walls imme- 
diately behind them, and all who present themselves at court 
must prostrate themselves or kneel, because this is an awkward 
position from which to make a sudden attack. It has perhaps 
never occurred to Christians that when they design a church on 
the model of a royal court (basilica) and prescribe church ritual, 
they are implying that God, like a human monarch, is afraid. 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

This is also implied by flattery in prayers: 

OLord our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings, Lord 
of lords, the only Ruler of princes, who dost from thy throne be- 
hold all the dwellers upon earth: most heartily we beseech thee 
with thy favor to behold. . . 7 

The Western man who claims consciousness of oneness with 
God or the universe thus clashes with his society's concept of 
religion. In most Asian cultures, however, such a man will be 
congratulated as having penetrated the true secret of life. He 
has arrived, by chance or by some such discipline as Yoga or Zen 
meditation, at a state of consciousness in which he experiences 
directly and vividly what our own scientists know to be true in 
theory. For the ecologist, the biologist, and the physicist know 
(but seldom feel) that every organism constitutes a single field 
of behavior, or process, with its environment. There is no way of 
separating what any given organism is doing from what its envi- 
ronment is doing, for which reason ecologists speak not of or- 
ganisms in environments but of organism-environments. Thus 
the words "I" and "self" should properly mean what the whole 
universe is doing at this particular "here-and-now" called John 

The kingly concept of God makes identity of self and God, or 
self and universe, inconceivable in Western religious terms. The 
difference between Eastern and Western concepts of man and 
his universe, however, extends beyond strictly religious concepts. 
The Western scientist may rationally perceive the idea of organ- 
ism-environment, but he does not ordinarily feel this to be true. 
By cultural and social conditioning, he has been hypnotized into 
experiencing himself as an ego— as an isolated center of con- 
sciousness and will inside a bag of skin, confronting an external 
and alien world. We say, "I came into this world." But we did 
nothing of the kind. We came out of it in just the same way that 
fruit comes out of trees. Our galaxy, our cosmos, "peoples" in 
the same way that an apple tree "apples." 

Such a vision of the universe clashes with the idea of a mo- 
narchical God, with the concept of the separate ego, and even 
with the secular, atheist/agnostic mentality, which derives its 
common sense from the mythology of nineteenth-century sci- 
entist. According to this view, the universe is a mindless mecha- 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 47 

nism and man a sort of accidental microorganism infesting a 
minute globular rock that revolves about an unimportant star 
on the outer fringe of one of the minor galaxies. This "put-down" 
theory of man is extremely common among such quasi scien- 
tists as sociologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, most of 
whom are still thinking of the world in terms of Newtonian me- 
chanics, and have never really caught up with the ideas of Einstein 
and Bohr, Oppenheimer and Schrodinger. Thus to the ordinary 
institutional-type psychiatrist, any patient who gives the least 
hint of mystical or religious experience is automatically diag- 
nosed as deranged. From the standpoint of the mechanistic reli- 
gion, he is a heretic and is given electroshock therapy as an up- 
to-date form of thumbscrew and rack. And, incidentally, it is 
just this kind of quasi scientist who, as consultant to govern- 
ment and law-enforcement agencies, dictates official policies on 
the use of psychedelic chemicals. 

Inability to accept the mystic experience is more than an in- 
tellectual handicap. Lack of awareness of the basic unity of or- 
ganism and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucina- 
tion. For in a civilization equipped with immense technological 
power, the sense of alienation between man and nature leads to 
the use of technology in a hostile spirit— to the "conquest" of 
nature instead of intelligent co-operation with nature. The re- 
sult is that we are eroding and destroying our environment, 
spreading Los Angelization instead of civilization. This is the 
major threat overhanging Western, technological culture, and 
no amount of reasoning or doom-preaching seems to help. We 
simply do not respond to the prophetic and moralizing tech- 
niques of conversion upon which Jews and Christians have al- 
ways relied. But people have an obscure sense of what is good 
for them— call it "unconscious self-healing," "survival instinct," 
"positive growth potential," or what you will. Among the edu- 
cated young there is therefore a startling and unprecedented 
interest in the transformation of human consciousness. All over 
the Western world publishers are selling millions of books deal- 
ing with Yoga, Vedanta, Zen Buddhism, and the chemical mysti- 
cism of psychedelic drugs, and I have come to believe that the 
whole "hip" subculture, however misguided in some of its mani- 
festations, is the earnest and responsible effort of young people 
to correct the self-destroying course of industrial civilization. 

The content of the mystical experience is thus inconsistent 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

with both the religious and secular concepts of traditional West- 
ern thought. Moreover, mystical experiences often result in atti- 
tudes that threaten the authority not only of established churches, 
but also of secular society. Unafraid of death and deficient in 
worldly ambition, those who have undergone mystical experi- 
ences are impervious to threats and promises. Moreover, their 
sense of the relativity of good and evil arouses the suspicion 
that they lack both conscience and respect for law. Use of 
psychedelics in the United States by a literate bourgeoisie means 
that an important segment of the population is indifferent to 
society's traditional rewards and sanctions. 

In theory, the existence within our secular society of a group 
that does not accept conventional values is consistent with our 
political vision. But one of the great problems of the United States, 
legally and politically, is that we have never quite had the cour- 
age of our convictions. The Republic is founded on the marvel- 
ously sane principle that a human community can exist and pros- 
per only on a basis of mutual trust. Metaphysically, the Ameri- 
can Revolution was a rejection of the dogma of Original Sin, 
which is the notion that because you cannot trust yourself or 
other people, there must be some Superior Authority to keep us 
all in order. The dogma was rejected because, if it is true that we 
cannot trust ourselves and others, it follows that we cannot trust 
the Superior Authority which we ourselves conceive and obey, 
and that the very idea of our own untrustworthiness is unreli- 

Citizens of the United States believe, or are supposed to be- 
lieve, that a republic is the best form of government. Yet vast 
confusion arises from trying to be republican in politics and 
monarchist in religion. How can a republic be the best form of 
government if the universe, heaven, and hell are a monarchy? 8 
Thus, despite the theory of government by consent, based upon 
mutual trust, the peoples of the United States retain, from the 
authoritarian backgrounds of their religions or national origins, 
an utterly naive faith in law as some sort of supernatural and 
paternalistic power. "There ought to be a law against it!" Our 
law-enforcement officers are therefore confused, hindered, and 
bewildered— not to mention corrupted— by being asked to en- 
force sumptuary laws, often of ecclesiastical origin, that vast 
numbers of people have no intention of obeying and that, in any 
case, are immensely difficult or simply impossible to enforce— 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 49 

for example, the barring of anything so undetectable as LSD-25 
from international and interstate commerce. 

Finally, there are two specific objections to use of psyche- 
delic drugs. First, use of these drugs may be dangerous. How- 
ever, every worth-while exploration is dangerous— climbing 
mountains, testing aircraft, rocketing into outer space, skin div- 
ing, or collecting botanical specimens in jungles. But if you value 
knowledge and the actual delight of exploration more than mere 
duration of uneventful life, you are willing to take the risks. It is 
not really healthy for monks to practice fasting, and it was hardly 
hygienic for Jesus to get himself crucified, but these are risks 
taken in the course of spiritual adventures. Today the adventur- 
ous young are taking risks in exploring the psyche, testing their 
mettle at the task just as, in times past, they have tested it- 
more violently— in hunting, dueling, hot-rod racing, and playing 
football. What they need is not prohibitions and policemen, but 
the most intelligent encouragement and advice that can be found. 

Second, drug use may be criticized as an escape from reality. 
However, this criticism assumes unjustly that the mystical expe- 
riences themselves are escapist or unreal. LSD, in particular, is 
by no means a soft and cushy escape from reality. It can very 
easily be an experience in which you have to test your soul against 
all the devils in hell. For me, it has been at times an experience in 
which I was at once completely lost in the corridors of the mind 
and yet relating that very lostness to the exact order of logic and 
language, simultaneously very mad and very sane. But beyond 
these occasional lost and insane episodes, there are the experi- 
ences of the world as a system of total harmony and glory, and 
the discipline of relating these to the order of logic and language 
must somehow explain how what William Blake called that "en- 
ergy which is eternal delight" can consist with the misery and 
suffering of everyday life. 9 

The undoubted mystical and religious intent of most users 
of the psychedelics, even if some of these substances should be 
proved injurious to physical health, requires that their free and 
responsible use be exempt from legal restraint in any republic 
that maintains a constitutional separation of church and state. 10 
To the extent that mystical experience conforms with the tradi- 
tion of genuine religious involvement, and to the extent that 
psychedelics induce that experience, users are entitled to some 
constitutional protection. Also, to the extent that research in the 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

psychology of religion can utilize such drugs, students of the 
human mind must be free to use them. Under present laws, I, as 
an experienced student of the psychology of religion, can no 
longer pursue research in the field. This is a barbarous restric- 
tion of spiritual and intellectual freedom, suggesting that the 
legal system of the United States is, after all, in tacit alliance with 
the monarchical theory of the universe, and will, therefore, pro- 
hibit and persecute religious ideas and practices based on an 
organic and unitary vision of the universe. 11 


1 See W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902). 

2 An excellent anthology of such experiences is R. Johnson, Watcher on the 
Hills (1959). 

1 Thus Hinduism regards the universe not as an artifact, but as an immense 
drama in which the One Actor (the paramatman or brakman ) plays all the 
parts, which are his (or "its") masks or personae. The sensation of being only 
this one particular self, John Doe, is due to the Actor's total absorption in 
playing this and every other part. For fuller exposition, see S. Radhakrishnan, 
The Hindu View of Life (1927); H. Zimmer, Philosophies of India (1951), pp. 355- 
463. A popular version is in A. Watts, The Book— On the Taboo Against Know- 
ing Who You Are (1966). 

4 Isaiah 45: 6, 7. 

5 Chandogya Upanishad 6.15.3. 

6 Alfred Lord Tennyson, A Memoir by His Son (1898), 320. 

7 A Prayer for the King's Majesty, Order for Morning Prayer, Book of Com- 
mon Prayer (Church of England, 1904). 

8 Thus, until quite recently, belief in a Supreme Being was a legal test of 
valid conscientious objection to military service. The implication was that the 
individual objector found himself bound to obey a higher echelon of com- 
mand than the President and Congress. The analogy is military and monarchi- 
cal, and therefore objectors who, as Buddhists or naturalists, held an organic 
theory of the universe often had difficulty in obtaining recognition. 

9 This is discussed at length in A. Watts, The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures 
in the Chemistry of Consciousness (1962). 

10 "Responsible" in the sense that such substances be taken by or adminis- 
tered to consenting adults only. The user of cannabis, in particular, is apt to 
have peculiar difficulties in establishing his "undoubted mystical and religious 
intent" in court. Having committed so loathsome and serious a felony, his 
chances of clemency are better if he assumes a repentant demeanor, which is 
quite inconsistent with the sincere belief that his use of cannabis was reli- 
gious. On the other hand, if he insists unrepentantly that he looks upon such 
use as a religious sacrament, many judges will declare that they "dislike his 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 5 1 

attitude," finding it truculent and lacking in appreciation of the gravity of the 
crime, and the sentence will be that much harsher. The accused is therefore 
put in a "double-bind" situation, in which he is "damned if he does, and damned 
if he doesn't." Furthermore, religious integrity— as in conscientious objection- 
is generally tested and established by membership in some church or religious 
organization with a substantial following. But the felonious status of cannabis 
is such that grave suspicion would be cast upon all individuals forming such 
an organization, and the test cannot therefore be fulfilled. It is generally for- 
gotten that our guarantees of religious freedom were designed to protect pre- 
cisely those who were not members of established denominations, but rather 
such (then) screwball and subversive individuals as Quakers, Shakers, Level- 
lers, and Anabaptists. There is little question that those who use cannabis or 
other psychedelics with religious intent are now members of a persecuted 
religion which appears to the rest of society as a grave menace to "mental 
health," as distinct from the old-fashioned "immortal soul." But it's the same 
old story. 

11 Amerindians belonging to the Native American Church who employ the 
psychedelic peyote cactus in their rituals, are firmly opposed to any govern- 
ment control of this plant, even if they should be guaranteed the right to its 
use. They feel that peyote is a natural gift of God to mankind, and especially to 
natives of the land where it grows, and that no government has a right to 
interfere with its use The same argument might be made on behalf of can- 
nabis, or the mushroom Psilocybe mexicana Heim . All these things are natural 
plants, not processed or synthesized drugs, and by what authority can indi- 
viduals be prevented from eating theme There is no law against eating or growing 
the mushroom Amanita pantherina, even though it is fatally poisonous and 
only experts can distinguish it from a common edible mushroom. This case 
can be made even from the standpoint of believers in the monarchical uni- 
verse of Judaism and Christianity, for it is a basic principle of both religions, 
derived from Genesis, that all natural substances created by God are inher- 
ently good, and that evil can arise only in their misuse. Thus laws against mere 
possession, or even cultivation, of these plants are in basic conflict with bibli- 
cal principles. Criminal conviction of those who employ these plants should be 
based on proven misuse. "And God said 'Behold, I have given you every herb 
bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the 
which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed- to you it shall be for meat.... And God 
saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

by Anonymous 

[from Diary of a Psychonaut: 

a collection of trip reports and psychedelic writings 

http://psvcnonaut.lycaeum.Org/ l 


Ly girlfriend L and I decided to take LSD together one beau- 
tiful Sunday morning. We'd tripped together on acid at parties a 
couple of times, but never in a more intimate setting. After the 
success of our MDMA trip together a few weeks previous, I felt 
that the time was right. She'd never done a day trip, so we de- 
cided to take the acid briefly after waking up. 

At approximately 10:00 a.m. we rose, spent a few minutes 
getting ourselves awake, and ate our drugs. I took three hits, she 
chose to do only one. After we took the acid we spent a short 
period of time hanging out around the house, deciding what to 
do. Before long, we decided to take a walk to a nearby park. By 
the time we made the decision, I was starting to feel the acid. As 
usual it first made itself known as a slight tension in my chest 
and a faint but definite feeling of altered awareness. 

As we walked away from my house L briefly wondered if she 
should have taken more. I offered to go back and get her an- 
other hit, since I had one left over. She considered it briefly but 
declined, saying she would take another when we got back from 
the walk if she still felt she needed it. 

The walk was only very slightly altered, a mild opening, but 
it was quite nice. The day was warm and beautiful, and the sun- 
light seemed crisp and jewel like. The day had a feeling of being 
charged through with a magical aura, a feeling that anything 
might happen, but that it would all be good. L, on the other 
hand, seemed a little paranoid to be out in public. I believe that 
the difference in our reactions stems largely from our respective 
degree of familiarity with psychedelically altered states. She is a 
relative novice, having tripped just over a dozen times, while I 
have had over a hundred trips. In my early experiences it was 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics • 5 3 

much more common for me to be "creeped out" or paranoid 
while tripping in a public or semi-public setting. 

Once we arrived at the park we sat on a bench and watched 
the world go by. As I mentioned it was quite a nice day, the sun 
was shining, kids were playing, birds and squirrels were making 
the most of a beautiful early spring day. We sat and made idle 
conversation and just enjoyed the environment and each other's 
company. Before long L decided we should head back, since the 
acid was working very strongly for her and she was a little un- 
comfortable being in such an exposed situation. 

As we walked back the effects were increasing. I was starting 
to see trails from objects as we walked by them. L said she felt 
like she was walking a foot above the pavement, not even walk- 
ing but merely gliding along effortlessly. 

When we arrived at my house there were several people there, 
hanging out with my roommate. We greeted them, then L went 
into my bedroom and shut the door. I took a few minutes to 
exchange amenities with them before following her in. 

In my room we talked about listening to music but couldn't 
really agree on anything. We did manage to get a few minutes 
into one album but L found it a little too heavy and asked me to 
turn it off. Around that time I heard my roommate and his guests 
leave so we decided to go into the living room and hang out 

After some discussion we decided to listen to Spiritualized' s 
Lazer Guided Melodies. I put it on and we sat on the couch to 
listen to it. Before long we started kissing, and before too much 
longer that progressed into caresses, fondling and general fool- 
ing around. Shortly after that we decided to move back into my 
bedroom in case my roommate returned. 

It wasn't long before we were naked. Sex on acid is one of my 
favorite things and I was eager to introduce L to its charms. 
Unfortunately she was having her period, which involved a fair 
amount of discomfort, mostly lower back pain. We would fool 
around for a while, then she would get uncomfortable, which 
distracted her to a fair degree. On acid, once distracted it is easy 
to get even more distracted, and it took a while before we were 
able to actually have sex. We were both enjoying it, but it wasn't 
quite as all encompassing as sex on acid can be due to her dis- 
comfort and the distractions that caused both of us. We both 
managed to maintain a sense of humor about it and after maybe 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

half an hour or forty-five minutes we decided to stop and take a 
bath together. 

I went into the bathroom to run us a bath while L relaxed and 
tried to deal with the pain she was experiencing. Knowing how 
unpleasant any sort of physical pain can be during a trip I empa- 
thized with her a great deal. It made me think of how weird it 
must be to be a woman, which in turn caused me to reflect on 
how weird it is to be a male and the beautiful yin/yang dichotomy 
of our separate sexual existences. 

As the tub filled I thought also about how well the trip was 
going so far. In many ways what psychedelics do is strip away 
layers of masks and half truth to reveal the essence beneath. It 
felt very positive to me that L and I were getting along so well 
and that she seemed equally pleased with the somewhat "el- 
emental" persona revealed by the LSD as she did with my every 
day identity. I had expected as much, but it felt good to be vali- 
dated in such a manner. 

L came in and we got in the tub. Looking at her I realized 
again how beautiful she was and how lucky I was to have found 
someone so compatible with me. I have what I consider to be a 
fairly weird personality, and although I never have trouble mak- 
ing friends, many people are somewhat apprehensive about get- 
ting on intimate terms with me. I have had several potential girl- 
friends bail on me when they realized just exactly how weird I 
really was, and for once I felt quite safe that that wasn't going to 

Sitting in the warm water felt quite nice. I sat on the faucet 
end so L could lie back and relax and we talked. I told her how 
beautiful she looked to me and asked how her trip was going. 
She told me she was having a great time and was glad to be with 
me. Our conversation continued along these lines for a while. It 
occurred to me that this trip had a lot of lunar energy to it. 
Lunar energy is tied in my mind not only to femininity but also 
to menstruation. L seemed to be some sort of moon goddess. In 
retrospect I sort of wished I had pursued this line of thought 
further, since I am very interested in archetypal energies such as 
this and have had some success manifesting those energies dur- 
ing psychedelic trips in the past. 

After quite some time in the tub, lounging and basking in 
each other's presence we decided to get out and get dressed. L 
decided she needed a cigarette, which meant a trip to the store, 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 5 5 

since she didn't have any with her. We got our shoes and socks 
on and set off. 

The short walk to the convenience store was pleasant and 
convinced me we should stay outside for awhile. L bought her 
cigarettes and we headed for a park nearby my house (a differ- 
ent one than we'd been in earlier). Once we got there we spent a 
few minutes going down the slide and giggling, remembering 
what it was to be a child. We finally ended up lying in the grass 
looking at the clouds. 

The clouds were incredible, beyond description and nearly 
beyond belief. Only nature could have produced something so 
beautiful and chaotic. The clouds were infinitely dense fractal 
constructs that pulsated and rolled and swirled around them- 
selves in some sort of incredibly complex dance. It was literally 
breathtaking and I could barely take my eyes off of it. L and I 
watched this for a while before deciding we needed some juice, 
so we headed to the grocery store around the corner. 

The grocery store was very, very weird. I got a very tense, 
unpleasant vibe from it. It just wasn't any place we wanted to be. 
We wandered around for a few minutes looking for one specific 
type of juice without any luck while smelling all sorts of un- 
pleasant smells (the seafood department was flat out rank) and 
overhearing the strangest bits of people's conversations. Finally 
I asked someone who worked there if they carried what we were 
looking for, and of course, they didn't. We chose to leave and try 
someplace else, partially because the whole place was just creep- 
ing me out. 

A small coffeeshop next door provided us with some decent 
juice and we headed back to the park. L sat on a rock and smoked 
while I sat and looked at her, once again marveling at how beau- 
tiful she looked and how happy she made me feel. I took the 
time to tell her this and got a warm hug and a kiss in return. We 
kissed a while and then decided to go back to cloud watching. 
The clouds were no less fascinating and beautiful than before 
and we spent quite a while enjoying them before heading home. 

When we got back L suggested we try to finish having sex, 
which I was more than happy to oblige. We went into my bed- 
room and more or less picked up where we left off. I felt like my 
arousal had merely been suspended and it took no effort to get 
me right back to where I was. The sex itself was wonderful, if not 
quite as colorful and boundary dissolving as it had been earlier, 


Can You Pass the Acid Test? 

closer to the peak. We came more or less simultaneously to both 
of our delight. 

Afterwards we hung out for a while trying to decide whether 
or not to go get some food. Finally we decided to eat and left the 
house with that in mind. Our first few choices were closed, but 
we managed to find adequate sustenance at a burrito shop a 
little ways from my house. After sharing a huge burrito we were 
both more or less down, with only residual effects left. We went 
and picked up my daughter from her mother's house and headed 
home. We ended up hanging out with some friends that stopped 
by, smoking pot and drinking a couple of beers before heading 
to bed around midnight. 

As usual I felt fine the next day, with no hangover to speak 
of. The trip left me with a warm glow and a good feeling about 
my future with L. I felt incredibly close to her, and I know she 
felt the same way. The trip was very intimate and loving and was 
more about getting into one another than tripping off into weird 
headspaces. All in all it was a wonderful, beautiful day. Once 
again psychedelics have proven to be a wonderful way to accen- 
tuate an already great situation into something extra special, 
even transcendent. 

A Fifth Anthology of Writings about Psychedelics ■ 5 7